Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 26th 2015 Contents B2
Guardian www.Guardian.co.tt Thursday, February 26, 2015
• From Page B1
Kanhai has worked at several
jobs over the past few years,
including assisting at a variety
store, working at a meat and poul-
try shop, waitressing, helping in
a grocery, working at Carlton Cen-
tre, and even working as a security
"It was hard," she says---espe-
cially with no paper qualifications.
Right now, she s taking time off
to be with her six-month-old
baby, and is trying to focus on
her education again---she wants
to study welding at MIC (Metal
Industries Company Ltd).
Becoming a Carnival Queen
never figured in her dreams, it
was just something that happened
as a result of her childhood love
Learning to stiltwalk
When she became a teenager,
she discovered that right in her
own neighbourhood there was a
young man who was learning to
be a moko jumbie, he was a mem-
ber of Kaisoca Moko Jumbies,
learning his skills from Junior Bis-
nath at the San Fernando School
of the Arts and Culture.
So Kanhai would go across and
learn from this neighbourhood
moko jumbie, watching and learn-
ing techniques from him.
"When I now start, at 16 years
old, it was on one foot, and every
two steps I make, I fall down. I
might get grazed, but I got back
three-foot stilt...You learn on short
sticks first, and then move on to
large ones," explained Kanhai.
She quickly developed the good
balance, leg strength and stamina
required to be a mokojumbie. "You
have to be willing and wanting to
do it," she said, "Do the training.
Climbing hills. We practiced in
the neighbourhood, about 20 stilt-
walkers, when we now start.
Youth from four years to 18 years
would be practicing," she remem-
She says it took a year before
she could "walk confidently" on
She believes she is the first
female moko jumbie walker to
win Queen of Carnival, although
there has already been a male
mokojumbie King - Jawan
Thomas, who played Fancy Sailor
King as part of Brian McFarlane s
2006 mas Threads of Joy.
The Sweet Waters design
"The first time I saw the Sweet
Waters of Africa costume, I didn t
have the confidence to play it,"
admitted Kanhai. She saw the
costume emerge through different
stages of construction, and grew
to know it intimately.
"The crown is a chandelier
shape, made of dry fig leaf, cane,
and even a piece of a wedding
dress. After trying it out a couple
times, I felt: OK, I was now sure
I could play this," she said.
"Alan s costumes inspired
me...and inspired a lot of other
mokojumbies to consider cos-
tumes more. Before Alan, we just
used to play in pyjama-type
clothes...But when they saw the
Crow---(Vaughan s 2012 moko-
jumbie king for the band TouchD-
Sky), that inspired a lot of people.
He s wonderful and talented. If it
wasn t it for him, we would never
have reached where we are now.
He takes stilt-walking to a dif-
"The whole costume was fairly
light," she said, admitting that on
Carnival Tuesday, playing mas on
the road, the breeze sometimes
made it difficult for her to walk:
"...The costume was rocking while
breeze was blowing...But we
helped each other, the four of us
who played mokojumbies: Gate-
keeper -- Conjure Man, Black
Indian, Fisher of Souls, and me."
Designer Alan Vaughan com-
mented: "It was remarkable that
Queen of Carnival came from such
a tiny operation...The wind at the
Savannah was so strong (on Carnival
Tuesday) that wearing the backpacks
and headpieces was too dangerous for
all of the mokojumbies. The stage was
extremely slippery due to the powder
from sailors. It was very risky to cross
it, let alone with a big costume and
an injury. But...we did our best...And
yes, Steffi was still in pain. A remark-
able, brave young woman."
Vaughan added: "The win will mean
we can afford a small truck next year
to help the moko jumbies on the road.
I think it is impossible for jumbies
"A couple of groundwalkers came
to the mas camp and wanted to play
with the band because of its creativity,
they ended up carrying things and
showing the banner for us. People
responded because they saw it as play-
ing mas, and I think that magic came
through, especially as the Ella Andall
song was an integral part of the mas."
"As the designer, I found her por-
trayal more than I could have hoped
for, and in a strange way the difficulties
and struggle she went through (and
with the injury, the limitations on her
movements and the danger that at any
moment she might fall), and overcom-
ing this with the help of the others,
and creating such beauty, in the end
was the theme of the mas.
"I am so pleased that the compe-
tition judges were open to supporting
a very different kind of costume and
presentation. I could not believe that
we had won, but looking at the com-
ments, to videos and images online,
I think it has made many people very
happy, and that is a wonderful thing."
Why does Stephanie Kanhai love
moko jumbies so much?
It s hard to put into words, but she
says: "It has you going. It doesn t mat-
ter if your foot hurting, or if the sun
is extremely hot, once you re playing,
you re enjoying it..."
It may be the start of a new family
tradition---Kanhai plans to teach her
three-year-old to stilt-walk, perhaps
in time for Emancipation Day.
'Queen of Carnival, a remarkable, brave woman'
A hill tribesman, centre, drives his motorbike as he carries his son and his wife on a dirt road on the
northeastern side of Phnom Penh, Cambodia yesterday. AP PHOTO
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